What is Influencer Fraud?
When most of us look at an unfamiliar influencer for the first time, the first figure we tend to consider is their follower count.
The weight we place on this metric, and the lack of scrutiny given to big numbers, has damaging consequences.
It rewards polarising, inflammatory viewpoints and it makes possible an industry where, views and likes are exchanged for cold, hard cash.
You can divide this issue into two distinct areas,
Intentional – this is where an influencer is actively purchasing likes or follows to bolster their numbers so that they can charge more money to brands who are attracted to influencers who appear to have a large audience.
Unintentional – Similar to intentional but this is where bots follow people in the hope that they will follow them back. After a couple weeks, they will then unfollow you.
Why Does This Matter?
Social media advertising is big business. Worldwide, the market is growing by around twenty per cent every year and the Influencer space is taking a big percentage.
By 2020, total spend on online marketing will have comfortably outstripped that of print advertising and the global ad spend will be between $5-10 billion dollars.
This growth can only continue if trust in social media platforms can be sustained. Unilever’s Keith Weed this year announced that the company would no longer work with influencers who buy followers, citing a need to “rebuild trust before it’s gone forever.”
Follower fraud, like many other varieties of fraud, comes with a financial cost. But it can also be damaging ways which are more difficult to quantify.
When consumers become cynical about an influencer’s online habits, they begin to mistrust everything they say – and this contributes to an environment where online marketing ceases to be effective.
What is Being Done About it?
The big social networks are aware of this problem and occasionally purge fake followers en-masse. Thus, businesses who engage in this practice might find their artificially-inflated follower-count collapse overnight.
High-profile Twitter accounts like those of Lady Gaga and Barack Obama was recently stripped of millions of fake followers. Even Twitters’ CEO, Jack Dorsey, lost several hundred thousand followers.
But this reactive approach won’t make social networks more inherently resilient to fake followers and fake news.
The human element in selecting followers you work with is critical and we wanted to share the 5 key steps we follow when reviewing a potential partner. Only time will tell how the influencer market will react to the challenges it faces but if you can keep your wits about you then you will reap the benefits that a well researched and structured Influencer campaign can bring.
Always remember, the role of an Influencer campaign is to have influence so pick your partners wisely.